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literature

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Ford, Charles Henri (1910?-2002), and Parker Tyler (1904-1974)  
 
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What is most remarkable is the candid and thoroughly unapologetic manner in which gay characters (nearly every principal character in the story) are presented. There are few precedents in modern literature for this straightforward, if campy, approach. No attempt is made to account for the etiology of the characters' sexual inclinations, as is so often the case in other contemporary works. No effort is made to improve their faults, sanitize their behavior, or plead for the audience's sympathy. Here we see, warts and all, a group of impulsive, reckless, occasionally vicious but always earnest young men, as well as a panorama of the milieu they inhabit.

Needless to say, in 1932 such a book was not warmly welcomed by publishers. The manuscript suffered several rejections in Britain and the United States before finally being optioned by Paris's Obelisk Press, a firm noted for committing to print such famously "unpublishable" works as Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness.

Sponsor Message.

In August 1933 a limited edition of 2500 copies of The Young and Evil appeared. Five hundred of these were promptly destroyed by British customs. American customs officials, meanwhile, returned to France all shipments of the book that arrived in the United States. The book received only a single review in its authors' native country (in The New Republic, which praised it), and was generally not read by American audiences until its republication in the United States in editions issued in 1960, 1974, and 1988.

Though it is considered a milestone in the history of homosexuality and in homosexual literature, The Young and Evil was an early, minor outing for Ford and Tyler at the outset of lengthy and divergent careers.

In 1940, Ford returned to New York and with Tyler collaborated on the magazine View, which became an important organ of both the surrealist and the abstract expressionist movements. While Ford went on to make experimental films and publish seventeen volumes of his own verse, Tyler became noted as a film critic.

Tyler's The Hollywood Hallucination (1944) was followed by several other books of criticism, including Screening the Sexes (1972), an early work on homosexuality in film. Significantly, Gore Vidal made "the great film critic Parker Tyler" the obsession of his heroine Myra Breckenridge in his eponymous 1968 novel. Tyler died in 1974.

Ford continued to write (even spending time in Kathmandu to work on his memoirs) and give interviews to literary and cultural historians into his nineties. He died in New York on September 27, 2002.

A documentary by James Dowell and John Kolomvakis, Sleep in a Nest of Flames: A Portrait of a Poet, A Portrait of a Century (2000), looks at avant-garde twentieth-century art and literature through the eyes of Charles Henri Ford.

Matthew D. Johnson

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literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969

Although largely invisible to the general public, a large body of twentieth-century gay male literature by American authors was published prior to Stonewall, some of it positive but most of it tinged with misery or bleakness as the price of being published and disseminated.

literature >> Overview:  American Writers on the Left

Most gay, lesbian, and bisexual American writers who adhered to Marxist-oriented parties and social movements between 1917 and the 1960s strove to hide their sexual orientation, and some even depicted homosexuals negatively in their fiction and drama.

literature >> Overview:  Camp

Combining elements of incongruity, theatricality, and exaggeration, camp is a form of humor that helps homosexuals cope with a hostile environment.

literature >> Overview:  Censorship

Governments, publishers, editors, and even gay writers themselves have censored gay content in literature from the Renaissance to the present.

arts >> Overview:  Film

Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality.

social sciences >> Overview:  New York City

Off and on over two centuries, New York City has also reigned as the capital of homosexual, transgender, and queer life in America.

literature >> Barnes, Djuna

American novelist Djuna Barnes sought new forms of self-representation of lesbians in the face of society's compulsory heterosexuality.

literature >> Doolittle, Hilda

The bisexual poet and novelist Hilda Doolittle, who published under the initials H. D., wrote poems and autobiographical prose works that celebrate women's romantic relationships with each other.

literature >> Hall, Radclyffe

Radclyffe Hall, who lived her lesbianism openly and proudly, is best known for The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most important lesbian novel ever written.

literature >> Roditi, Edouard

Poet, translator, literary and art critic, and short story writer, Edouard Roditi was associated with most of the twentieth-century's avant-garde literary movements from Surrealism to post-modernism.

literature >> Stein, Gertrude

In addition to becoming--with Alice B. Toklas--half of an iconic lesbian couple, Gertrude Stein was an important innovator and transformer of the English language.

arts >> Tchelitchew, Pavel

Russian-born painter, sculptor, and set designer Pavel Tchelitchew created a number of works that illustrate homoerotic desire.

literature >> Vidal, Gore

The multifaceted Gore Vidal is important in the gay literary heritage because of the straightforwardness with which he pursued gay themes and included gay characters in his work.

arts >> Webb, Clifton

American actor Clifton Webb rescued the film sissy from secondary status, then moved on to a variety of comic and dramatic roles.


    Bibliography
   

Austen, Roger. Playing the Game: The Homosexual Novel in America. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1977.

Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. New York: Basic Books, 1994.

Ford, Charles Henri, and Parker Tyler. The Young and Evil. Paris: Obelisk Press, 1933; rpt. New York: Gay Presses of New York, 1988.

Levin, James. The Gay Novel in America. New York: Garland, 1991.

Watson, Steven. "Introduction." Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler. The Young and Evil. New York: Gay Presses of New York, 1988. v-xxxvii.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Johnson, Matthew D.  
    Entry Title: Ford, Charles Henri ,  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated June 11, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/ford_ch.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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